Hoosiers face 1st major test at home from Maryland
When junior guard Jeremiah Rivers drives or begins a half-court set, his vision is rarely impaired.
At 6-foot-5, he has faced opponents who usually stand about five inches shorter.
When the Hoosiers faced Grace College in a Nov. 4 exhibition game, a player was asked why it was different to play IU. He answered: “The point guard was 6-foot-5.”
IU will now face a guard well above 6-foot. Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez will come to Bloomington today. When he takes the court, he will stand at 6 feet, 6 inches.
Despite his overall size, IU coach Tom Crean said the scariest thing about Vasquez is his heart.
“He’s fearless on both ends of the floor,” he said. “He‘ll gamble and take risk on the defensive end, and if you’re not careful, he’ll make you foul. And when I say he’s fearless, he doesn’t care if he’s going against a guard or a big.”
Vasquez is currently averaging 11.2 points, 5.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds. While his numbers are not overwhelming, his emotions are.
After big wins, Vasquez can usually be seen pulling his jersey, making it visible to the crowd. A scowl is usually worn on his face as inaudible screams come from his protruding mouth.
His intensity and skill was one of the major reasons Maryland began the season ranked among the top-25 teams in the nation.
Vasquez will present a different task from past guards to face IU.
Rivers dished 10 assists against Northwestern State on Saturday, as he was able to look cleanly over the head of 5-foot-9 Michael McConathy.
Similar to the status of his team in comparison to Northwestern State, not only is Vasquez a taller player, but he is also more established. The senior guard is a two-time all-ACC performer, who nearly tested the draft waters in summer 2009.
But Rivers, a transfer from Georgetown, said he has faced Vasquez and shooting guard Eric Hayes, who also is 6-foot-4.
“I’m really used to playing against Greivis and Eric Hayes and (forward Landon) Melbourne,” he said. “And they’re just a real tough team and they’re principled, highly coached.”
The fiery Vasquez has seemed to be a leader on the Maryland club since he stepped on campus. As a highly-acclaimed freshman, he came in and took starting positions from veterans in the 2006-07 season.
Since that year, he has been the general of the Terrapins and freshman guard Maurice Creek said IU will be focused on stopping him today.
“He’s a great player,” he said. “He’s the older player, so he’s the leader of the team; he’s the crowned king of that team. We’re focusing on them more because he’s the one that gets their team right, who get’s their team motivated.”
Crean said the rangy guard will be dangerous from anywhere on the floor, even though they have worked to prepare for Vasquez and fared decently against bigger guards in Puerto Rico.
“Vasquez is a threat to score as soon as he crosses half court,” Crean said. “There’s never a time when you can relax on Vasquez – not any time, whether it’s in the side, whether it’s in the corner, the top, you have to constantly be aware of where he is.”
Crean laid out the skills that allow Vasquez to make his way through defenders to make plays for himself and teammates.
“He gets where he wants to go,” Crean said. “He’s extremely well-schooled and well-drilled in how to get to the middle, pushing the dribble out, creating space.”
Vasquez flirted with the NBA last season, but came back to play for a coach in Gary Williams who Crean called “a future Hall of Famer.” Crean said the opponents of Maryland will have to pay for that decision.
“To the dismay of the rest of us, it’s probably good that he’s back with Gary Williams for a year still learning more,” Crean said. “It just creates more heartaches and heartbreaks for everybody that’s gotta face him.”
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